Sharing Lessons on Inclusive Business - The Practitioner Hub
“Sharing knowledge is not about giving people something, or getting something from them. That is only valid for information sharing. Sharing knowledge occurs when people are genuinely interested in helping one another develop new capacities for action; it is about creating learning processes.”
Peter Senge, Center for Organizational Learning, MIT Sloan School of Management
Collaborating, innovating, asking hard questions and learning from others....are all vital ingredients for successful inclusive business. Every inclusive business project is unique but many of the opportunities, risks and challenges it faces are not. And every project, whether it succeeds or not, will provide a wealth of understanding that can be used to inform and improve future ventures.
The Business Innovation Facility, a three year pilot programme supported by the Department for International Development, is now at its halfway point. A significant amount of knowledge and tools are already coming out of projects that are being developed in Bangladesh, India, Malawi, Nigeria and Zambia. The experiences ‘on the ground’ are providing new ways of thinking about inclusive business – particularly which types of projects and support work, which don’t and, most importantly, why.
Sharing this knowledge is an essential part of the Facility’s remit. It teamed up Innovations Against Poverty, funded by the Swedish International Development Agency to develop the Practitioner Hub - a website where this knowledge can be shared and where practitioners can connect, share experiences and gain new insights to help inclusive business ventures grow. It focuses on what’s practical – the nuts and bolts of inclusive business.
The Practitioner Hub has recently been upgraded with new resources and new areas for knowledge sharing. It looks at essential topics such as ‘last-mile distribution’ and ‘commercialising NGOS’ and offers insights, tools and the opportunity, through its networks and blogs, for practitioners from across the globe to talk to each other and share their own experiences and advice.
It is crucial that more people join these conversations and anyone that has not already joined the Hub is encouraged to do so. If you are genuinely interested in helping other practitioners and developing new capacities for action, it is the only place to be! www.businessinnovationfacility.org.
For further information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Hi Clare, what are the key lessons that have been learnt to date?
The key lessons that have been learned to date……. I will respond on the Business Innovation Facility (BIF) as I am more closely involved in that programme – I will encourage colleagues to respond on IAP. BIF provides technical support to inclusive business projects rather than finance. As a pilot programme we are learning lessons all the time. And we have just carried out a review of our portfolio which is telling us quite a lot at the halfway point. A summary of this review will be available soon on the Hub but in the meantime some headlines:
IB projects come in many shapes and forms – from start-ups to established domestic and multinational companies
Commercial success is critical but difficult to judge in the short-term. It’s all about going to scale – and this takes time (longer than a four year pilot!). There will be failures – but it is important to take a risk and learn from these.
The development impact of a project cannot just be measured by the number of people who benefit. It is also important to understand the significance of this impact on the beneficiary (how life-changing is it?), the likelihood it will be copied/developed further by others, the impact it has on the wider markets and whether it has an environmental benefit.
Short and long-term support is offered and both are useful at certain stages of development.
Access to finance is one of the major challenges facing IB projects.
Technical support is most frequently required/offered on business planning and strategy.
The value of this support is difficult to measure – and it is early days – but anecdotal evidence suggests that this ‘hands on’ support is often core to the success of the projects – if not sometimes “critical to survival”.
Please have a look at all of the publications on offer in our ‘library’ (http://businessinnovationfacility.org/page/facility-publications) as they contain many other specific lessons coming directly out of the projects and our experts ‘on the ground’.